Georgia native Chase Elliott takes his first NASCAR Cup win at Atlanta Motor Speedway

HAMPTON, Ga. — Chase Elliott wanted this win so badly as the home crowd cheered his every move.

In the rearview mirror, he saw Corey LaJoie coming his way quickly. There was no way Elliott would let him past.

The Georgia-born driver sped past an angered LaJoie with just under two laps to go and crossed the finish line under yellow after LaJoie crashed through a large block into the wall at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday.

It was Elliott’s first NASCAR Cup win at his home track, having come up short in his first eight attempts.

“I’ve seen guys win at their home track and you could tell it meant a lot to them,” said Elliott. “But until you start competing at the highest level of the sport, you don’t really understand what it can mean to you. Having this moment is so special and one I am grateful for.”

Elliott withdrew in front of the grandstand and was greeted by a loud ovation from fans who cheered loudly every time he walked forward, seemingly stretching as far away as Dawsonville, the north Georgia city where the winner and his father were from NASCAR Cup star Bill Elliott.

“Awesome Bill From Dawsonville” won five times at the historic track in Atlanta. Now his kid has one too.

The Elliotts are the only Georgia-born drivers to have won a Cup race in Atlanta. They are the third father-son duo to cross the checkered flag at the 1.54-mile trioval, alongside the Jarretts (Ned and Dale) and the Earnhardts (Dale and Dale Jr.).

The wild capper of another eventful race in Atlanta denied LaJoie his first career win in what would have come as a huge shock to the low-budget Spire Motorsports team.

With a restart three laps before the end. LaJoie led the field from the inside lane and did everything he could to stop Elliott. But after crossing the start-finish line for the penultimate time, Elliott charged to the front with a helpful nudge from Erik Jones on the outside.

LaJoie set up a good run for the leader as they took the white flag and tried to pass Elliott at the same spot he gave up the lead.

Elliott slid up the bench to cut off his challenger. LaJoie, who had only one top-five finish in his career, ran out of space and smashed the outside wall.

Ross Chastain was about to charge Elliott but the yellow lights were flashing and the number 9 was still almost a car length ahead.

That was it. Elliott was finally able to relax and become the first three-time winner in a season that has produced 13 different winners.

Chastain was second followed by Austin Cindric, Jones and Ryan Blaney. LaJoie opted for 21st place.

“Obviously I knew he was going to have a great run. I tried to give him a good, aggressive block,” Elliott said. “I don’t know what else to do. You strive for victory or not. I will choose option A every time.”

LaJoie, whose career-best finish was fifth at this year’s spring race in Atlanta, nearly clinched the most unlikely win of a wild season. He had no complaints about Elliott’s aggressive approach.

“That was fun,” LaJoie said. “It’s nice to have that thing up front for once. I made my move. It didn’t work out.”

Even Rick Hendrick, who owns Elliott’s car, sympathized with LaJoie’s unfortunate ending.

“If we couldn’t win, I wanted them to win,” said Hendrick. “He drove a damn good race. He looked as good as anyone else in this field.”

Martin Truex Jr. was leading a tight field at the front when Chastain caused his second wreck of the day with 14 laps to go.

As a two-time winner this season, Chastain has also made many enemies with his overly aggressive riding style. He tapped the left rear quarter panel of Denny Hamlin’s car, which sent the number 11 into a spin that ruined his hopes of winning.

Truex led the restart with eight laps to go, LaJoie pulled forward on the backstretch, but the yellow flag was flown again as Hamlin was bumped for the second time. This time it was Christopher Bell who tried to squeeze between Hamlin and Joey Logano, causing a spin that destroyed all three cars.

Hamlin was 25.

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: